ArticlesFeaturedInterviewsJune 2020

Amy Porter’s Anatomy of Sound

Amy Porter is a Haynes Artist and has been Professor of Flute at the University of Michigan for 21 years. She is an international soloist, winner of the 1993 Kobe International Flute Competition and is managed by Sciolino Artists Management in New York City. Amy Porter is President of Porter Productions and has a new weekly podcast called PorterFlute.


When did you start Anatomy of Sound?

I started Anatomy of Sound in 2003.


Why did you decide to start Anatomy of Sound?

How did this happen?  Is it possible to look back sometimes and say I did something methodically spiritual? I like to reflect on what happened in order to learn from it. So how far back should I look? Let’s go back to the beginning. Let me set the tone by saying, I am a beginner every day. If I make us all beginners every day, and we all welcome our days playing our instrument as beginners, we have more to learn and discover from our efforts that makes us more imaginative. That means our long tones are not giving us a false sense of security but a sense of balance. Our technical exercises are not meant to give us tendonitis, but a wonderful way to begin to create music on the instrument. Our etudes are not for naught – they are often more difficult than our major repertoire so they serve our future. If we are beginners every day then we can lose old habits and replace them with good ones.

I was teaching a lesson here at U of M to a sophomore in 2001. She was not using absolutely every single nerve in her body to play the music and I was frustrated. I was frustrated because, as teachers can attest, we physically feel for our students. We want them to feel what it is that we feel so we play by example, we use words to songs, we use our stories, we use recordings – I had used everything in my power, through the breath, body position, visualization, to show this student she needed to give me MORE emotionally.  I knew it would help her playing if she could tap into her own power.

But she couldn’t.

I had to say something that was kosher.  I remember bending down at the waist, looking at the floor and in a soft whisper of a yell, I exclaimed …

“It’s the ANATOMY!! Of sound! You need to play from everything that is inside of you – you need to hear it before it happens, feel it before you hear it, … see it and hear it coming out as music not notes. Then put your WHOLE life into it!” She, of course, didn’t say a word. I don’t know how long it took for me to stop talking and for her to continue her etude – but I sneaked over to my desk and scribbled on a Post It – “Anatomy of Sound” and put it on my computer monitor. I knew I had to remember what I’d just said.

Summer went by. The next fall I was at the faculty meeting and they introduced the new Professor of Theater Jerry Schwiebert and his background. He was teaching acting classes with so many levels of awareness and it was everything I knew I had learned too!! I sought him out! “Hello!” I said. I proceeded to tell him that, while having studied a lot that he was teaching in movement, I was no expert. I was hoping my students could be as fortunate as I was at Juilliard to have a movement course. I had received a four-year course in Alexander technique and attended countless movement seminars and lectures. I had done meditation retreats, gotten involved with many aspects of yoga and health. I was somehow able to play music with all of this great non-musical material. But in no way could I teach all that I had learned. I wanted something for my students here at the U of M where they could learn skills beyond their instrument. I wanted them to look inside themselves as well. It’s just where I believe that the best performances lie for the performer.

An orange flyer appeared in my school mailbox that fall. It said, “Want to start a Summer Workshop?” and was calling all faculty to lead the way in the trend of interdisciplinary workshops!  So I took the yellow.  Post-It note off my computer monitor and posted it to the orange flyer and an idea was born. I asked Jerry Schwiebert to team teach with me, unscripted and unplugged.

So how were we to merge our teachings? We decided we would not. I’d go for it – he’d go for it – we often ask each other before beginning with a student, “Should we go for it?” Yes, I say, and we delve into the person’s unknown beauty, and musical truth. We literally are like talk show hosts who sit next to each other and complement each other’s teachings with humor and love without ever saying the same thing.  Again, there is no script, syllabus, or method - I do my thing. Jerry does his thing (which I know to be only good). We have different methods for the same message. Be open, honest, communicative artists.

Still, I needed to offer more in this workshop than just Jerry or I could teach. Somehow I needed everyone to understand what I knew to be true about the mind/body message. You need to get on the floor and be quiet. That’s when I knew I needed a Certified Yoga Instructor to teach an introductory course. I hired my fully qualified and outstanding Doctoral student Cathie Apple, to come and teach a “Yoga For Flutists class. She did the first two workshops beautifully before moving away to Sacramento. Then I was told by one of my beloved amateur students, Professor of Law Margaret Jane Radin, that I should hire Laura Dwyer.  She felt that Laura had a powerful and connective experience in her class that complimented my teaching in my class.  Well, Peggy only gives great advice, so I hired Laura in year three. She helps us understand that everyone needs to just breathe. And then there is the mind. You have to turn it off before you can turn it on to perform. We learn from Laura about body awareness, away from the judgmental and chatty mind, and it frees us in a way we need to perform at our best.

 The final component of the class, the featured guest, came when I realized I needed to appeal to the masses and not over-saturate my class with anatomy and sound lessons. I needed just the “regular bona fide master class.” My idea was to regularly invite my friends and former teachers, offering what the flute student really wants – to perform!!

It all started in 2003 with Alexa Still, and Goran Marcusson in year one.  They were friends from Kobe Competition, ten years before. The second year, my teacher Jeanne Baxtresser graced us with her poised teaching of orchestral playing.  The 2005 workshop welcomed Jim Walker from USC and he taught us how to improvise.  2006 brought Andras Adjoran from Munich, Germany and he lectured on the Doppler Brothers. In 2007 we invited Dr. Brad Garner from Cincinnati Conservatory and he discussed the French Conservatoire repertoire.  In 2008 we had my Juilliard classmate Tom Robertello, Professor at Indiana University and composer Martin Kennedy. Tom made the students improvise to art on the projector from the artists he featured at his Chicago art gallery.

In 2009 we welcomed Marianne Gedigian from UT Austin and she lectured on the great violinists.  NYU Professor Keith Underwood came in 2010. We offered him the biggest screen of his life in Stamps Auditorium to show his YouTube video lecture on famous flutists. Never has Jean Pierre Rampal with the Muppets looked so good to him. Then we had composer Ian Clarke in 2011.  Fifteen Anatomy of Sound performers, all offering fifteen different Ian Clarke pieces. I was so proud. Year 10 we featured Paula Robison from the New England Conservatory in Boston. Magical moments for me were hearing her recital, her lecture on Marcel Moyse, and sharing the stage with her in a duet. In 2013 was Carol Wincenc and it was so fun to watch her get everyone up and dance. 2014 Trudy Kane, my former flute coach returned to continue her elegant teaching. In 2015 Leone Buyse graced us with her presence and I played a dream duet with her that is one performance I won’t ever forget because I was so “present.” 2016 brought Mark Sparks from the St. Louis Symphony and his expertise in orchestral excerpts.

In 2017 we hosted Viviana Guzman. She changed my life and everyone who attended by teaching us all to believe in ourselves and to document everything in life.  In 2018 Ali Ryerson taught us to find our jazz style and we featured all types of improvisation for all types of players complete with a jazz trio accompaniment. Christina Jennings joined us in 2019 as we took a step in a new direction, with real Anatomy explained through lectures and she taught freedom through Dalcroix movement.


What have you learned from hosting so many wonderful workshops?

So many flutists look to me to be their inspiration and facilitator but I feel I’m just their mirror.  I’m reflecting back to them what they already have inside themselves. One day, by a stroke of kismet, my staff mate Laura Dwyer gave me a gift one day after I had said "I am just a mirror to others" – it was a plaque that said, “Teachers turn mirrors into windows.” 

We grow in levels as human beings. We speak about self-awareness, emotional awareness, owning your power, and enjoying it all in the end. I've learned to keep true to that message.  

So that is where we are now. Reflecting on being alone, yet together.


What are you planning to present this year that is different from previous years?

Now in its 18th year, I'm taking my Anatomy of Sound Workshop online, aligning with Yoga master and flutist Laura Dwyer and with Michigan Medicine's Otolaryngologist, Dean of Diversity and flutist Dr. David Brown. We want to bring some consistent themes from our in-person workshop into a new format of reading, lecturing, and movement learning. Everyone has the opportunity 4-5 times a day to view masterclasses of conversations between the teacher and the participant, join in-depth online discussions in Canvas platform about the study of flute tone, breathing, body awareness excerpts, Mozart, singing style and so much more. The workshop will feature Professor Porter and Professor Bonita Boyd from the Eastman School in masterclasses for flutists, critiquing their submitted video while speaking to them in real-time. Real-time yoga - or on their time - with Laura Dwyer is truly a capstone of our workshop.

Dr. Scott Shuler, Ph.D.,  published, award-winning author/editor, and former President of the National Association for Music Education, will lecture on "Positive Change through 8 Liberating Habits." As Amy Porter's first band director in Delaware, Dr. Shuler’s session elicits reflection and provides a bit of inspiration through provocative questions and ideas based on his career of teaching and leadership, which has spanned Grades 3 through postgraduate teaching in seven states and almost every specialty area of music education.  

Adam Workman will return for "Anatomy of a Match" about matching you to a flute and teaching your "why" behind a flute choice.

Aiven O’Leary, General Manager and Lead Headjoint Maker of Wm. S. Haynes Co will also present a fascinating real-time fabrication of a headjoint from start to finish. 

Dr. Erika Boysen returns to discuss her evolving study of vibrato teachings over time and flute vibrato development throughout history. It’s a fascinating study in coordination with Dr. David Brown and continues to be an Anatomy of Sound Workshop favorite lecture.

Sarah Hollandsworth from Flute World will discuss flute career choices

SCHEDULE:   ON CANVAS - the UMICH online educational portal


11:00 AM Orientation - Amy Porter, Laura Dwyer, Dr. Brown, Bonita Boyd, Brian Dunbar, Erika Boysen

2:00 PM Dr. David Brown What does the Anatomy of Sound really look like

3:30 PM Dr. Erika Boysen Vibrato Study Continued...

7:00 PM Recorded Faculty Recital Amy Porter,



9:00AM - 10:00AM EST Yoga with Laura Dwyer

11:00 AM Dr. Scott Shuler Positive Change through 8 Liberating Habits

In this session, Scott Shuler elicits reflection and provides a bit of inspiration through provocative questions and ideas based on his career of teaching and leadership, which has spanned Grades 3 through postgraduate teaching in seven states and almost every specialty area of music education.

2:00 PM Live on Zoom  Bonita Boyd Masterclass #1 Mozart Masterclass

Professor Boyd has discussions with each performer in real-time after she has viewed their video performances.

3:30 PM Amy Porter Anatomy of Sound Masterclass #1

has discussions with each performer in real-time after she has viewed their video performances.



9:00AM - 10:00AM Live Yoga with Laura Dwyer

11:00 AM: Dr. Brown Video at the Anatomage Table 

Presentation (Taubman Health Sciences Library) 

2:00 PM: Laura Dwyer Showcase - Letting go to Joy! 

Have you ever experienced calm when you play? Where does our fight or flight response come from?  

3:30 PM: PM Bonita Boyd Masterclass #2 Orchestral Excerpts

Professor Boyd has discussions with each performer in real time after she has viewed their video performances of orchestral excerpts.

4:30  Sarah Hollandsworth from Flute World will discuss flute career choices



9:00AM - 10:00AM EST Yoga with Laura Dwyer

11:00 AM Anatomy of Sound Masterclass #2

Professor Porter has discussions with each performer in real time after she has viewed their video performances

2:00 PM: Bonita Boyd RECITAL

3:30  PM  Aiven O’Leary, Master Headjoint maker from Haynes Flutes makes us a headjoint

4:30 Adam Workman “Anatomy of A Match” about matching you to a flute and teaching your "why" behind a flute choice.


What do you enjoy the most about Anatomy of Sound? 

Training new people in our course. I love this class so much I am starting an online course that people can take 4 times a year.  Then they can get training in shorter courses before they take the annual workshop.

I also like featuring new lectures and busting myths about the body and flute playing!

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